Wednesday 21 November 2012

Road trip out of Tabuk

Last weekend at Tabuk was not all about birding in the pivot fields near the city although the sociable lapwing sightings there were of course the biggest highlight.

Today's blog looks at Thursday afternoon's road trip which Lou Regensmorter and I took north west of Tabuk into the hills. The next blog will look in more detail at the pivot fields.

The road trip was one of those mixed experiences where things don't go according to plan but other events helped compensate.

The plan was to find Sinai rosefinch. In that we failed. Were we in the wrong area? Does it come down to lower levels in winter? We still don't really know but its another reason we aim to go back to Tabuk.


Blue rock thrush

By way of compensation I saw two northern raven (and plenty of brown necked raven). Indeed upland areas in the far north of Saudi Arabia in winter are the only geographies and times when this is possible to see. We found it was noticeably bigger than brown necked raven. It is a welcome addition to my Saudi list.

Another addition was a Finsch's wheatear seen in late afternoon in a rocky dry river valley close to the main road. I know this bird well from when I worked in Azerbaijan. This north west corner along with the east coast south of Kuwait are the best hopes of seeing this bird in KSA.

Alongside these, the other best experience of the trip occurred as we stopped at a road side shop for water and snacks. In an open shed next door was a very tame blue rock thrush. It allowed prolonged and very close inspection. Was it very tired or just very confident amongst people?

Desert lark

Otherwise birds on the road trip were scarce. The only two birds which did keep popping up with any regularity were white crowned wheatear and desert lark.

White crowned wheatear

Even an area with a dam and a small bit of water could only add palestine sunbird, blackstart and a solitary stonechat.

Palestine sunbird

Near-by we added little green bee-eater to the afternoon's list.

Little green bee-eater

As it got dark we investigated a brand new road in the area signposted as montane road. We can't remember the road being showed on google earth during our pre-trip research - that's how new it must be. 

Anyway, we followed it for several kilometres going higher and higher. The temperature gauge also dropped lower and lower. Finally we arrived at the top. The very top is prohibited access but this was the top of Jebel al Lawz the highest point in north west Saudi Arabia (2580 metres). It's also the only place where chukar has been recorded in KSA. Unfortunately we had no time to investigate. 

Its another reason to go back to this area of KSA again.


  1. Unlike Riyadh , the Eastern Province and Abha, Tabuk I think need for more studies and visits to discover good places for bird watching, this will make any birder enjoy more in less time .As is evident, the Tabuk region is very important for any birder not only in Saudi Arabia but also in Middle East.

  2. Mansur, you are right about Tabuk. Its has a lot to see: pivot fields, wetlands, desert, uplands and a northerly geography. We could have spent two or three more days there and it is certainly worth visiting again at different times of year. The passage seasons must be very good.